Nobody wants to read an actor packet. Especially in those cherished hours after class and before rehearsal usually reserved for eating, checking Facebook, and watching Youtube.
Applying this idea to my dramaturgy work for The Rivals, my assistant dramaturg Anna Bosy and I created a digital actor packet comprised of a series of Bill-Nye-The-Science-Guy style videos covering a range of topics– from circulating libraries to the party life of Bath.
Despite the new technology used to create this packet, it remains one of the most traditional approaches to dramaturgy I’ve experimented with and is structured much like a classic paper packet. The video on Bath functions as the “World of the Play” section of an actor packet. We edited it to look like a History Channel documentary complete with Ken-Burns panning over research images. http://vimeo.com/37607556.
Information on the playwright was presented in the style of the fictional talk-show “Posthumous Humorists” in which I interview Richard Sheridan. Or rather, I interview my only friend who can do an Irish accent. http://vimeo.com/37913906
The section on dueling customs was filmed and edited to resemble a 1950s instructional video on “How to Duel” and is another personal favorite of mine. http://vimeo.com/37860485
Anna and I also developed a reoccurring character—Dr. Dramaturg (played by both of us) who reads multiple short segments filled with information from a note card. In a conversation we had during the creative process, Anna had mentioned how our portrayal of Dr. Dramaturg is loving and celebratory, and that we were in no way laughing at the expense of Dr. D and her inability to tell when the camera was recording. This resonates with our director Catherine Weidner’s concept of a joyful world where character flaws are always read as endearing character traits.
Reflecting on the project now, I was happy to see the actors get excited about learning and hear them tell each other, “You have to see the one about…” It was like having the videos go viral, within the small community I was targeting.